William BunceAmerican, 1840–1916
William Gedney Bunce a painter and brother of Admiral Francis Marvin Bunce was born in Hartford, He began his art education as early in 1856, when he took drawing lessons from Julius T. Busch a German-born artist residing in Hartford. He attended Cooper Union in New York City and studied with the painter William Hart and later studied art in Paris, Munich, Antwerp, and Venice. He was a member of the Tile Club and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York City.
By 1867 he had moved abroad. He spent more than a decade studying in various European cities. He sojourned in London, Paris and Rome. While in Rome in 1871, Bunce's first paintings were sent back to the United States for exhibition, but it was not until his 1879 return to New York City that he received critical acclaim. His paintings were unique in that he composed them with a palette knife rather than a paintbrush. In 1880 his evocative Venetian canal scenes were praised, but a year later there were already warnings from the press of mannerism and unmotivated repetition. Nevertheless, he was recognized for his sense of color and apparent simplistic design.
Until World War I, Bunce divided his time between Venice and the United States, but he was more associated with Venice. Over the years he became something of an institution there. Acquaintances like Robert Blum and William Merritt Chase joked about his proud and cantankerous nature, which in 1881 had caused Venetian gondoliers to refuse him their services. But he also had loyal promoters and patrons, such as the dealer Daniel Cottier, the architect Stanford White, and Queen Victoria of England who had ordered one of his Venetian landscapes. Much of the English repute of William Gedney Bunce the American landscape painter was directly due to Queen Victoria's fondness for his brilliant sunsets. The favor of a monarch has ever been valuable to an artist.
Bunce kept a New York studio on Washington Square for many years but ultimately moved back to Hartford, where he built a new studio and continued to paint until 1916. He died on November 5, 1916 when he was hit by a car while crossing the street – one of the first victims of an automobile accident in Hartford.